Many people underestimate the importance of leaving a sizable portion of your hard disk free.  Imagine trying to cook a gourmet meal with 95% of your kitchen counters covered in supplies (even if those supplies are well-organized and tasty)!  We expect our computers to perform a similar feat when we operate with hard drives stuffed to the brim (sound familiar, MacBook Air users?).

From what I’ve read, maintaining ~20% free is recommended.  If you want to quickly check how much space you have available on your Mac, go Apple –> About this Mac –> StorageScreen_Shot_2014-12-02_at_5_41_12_AM

Less than 20% free?  You have two options:  Increase the size of your hard disk, or make some space.

“Great!  I just have to delete some stuff and make room!”   So you start with the “easy-gets”:  Downloads folder (wow–totally useless files from 3 years ago!), those Breaking Bad episodes you still have hanging around, maybe trashing a few crap photos.  Quickly, you realize how time-consuming it is to free up space, and that many of the files you are deleting are actually quite small and insignificant.  You may be wondering:  What the #&$% is taking up so much space?!

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I wish I would have taken a screen shot before spending 10 minutes deleting absolute space-wasters! It looks a lot better now, believe it or not. It wasn’t a huge surprise that my photos are the largest user of space–but I had no idea they were THIS big! Add to todolist: Cull crap photos.

This is where Disk Inventory X comes in.  A free program that will give you a detailed, graphical report that very quickly lets you know who your GB-hogs are.  It will automatically sort your folders based on size.  You can expand each folder to show more detail, and the corresponding colored-box will be highlighted.

Immediately, you will realize you have some unpleasant work to do (nobody likes chugging through all those photos!).  But, hopefully, you can find a few quickies that will give you some breathing room.   Chances are high that your media files are going to taking up a huge amount of space.   I recommend using flagging to pick the ‘keepers’, then trash the rest!  Also worth checking:  Downloads folder(s), Applications (do you really actually use all of them?), iTunes media (watch out for duplicates!), Movies (really–are you going to ever need a movie file after you’ve seen it once?).